Throughout this off-season we're going to be looking at prospective free agents that could end up fitting a need for the Celtics in our Green Target series.
We've already taken a look at the Wolves Nikola Peković, and now we turn our attention to another restricted free agent big man — the Spurs Tiago Splitter.
Who is Splitter?
Well if you don't know by now, you haven't been watching a lot of playoff basketball. Splitter is the starting center for the Spurs, and is finishing up his 3rd season in the NBA. He's finishing off a mini-breakout season, averaging career highs in minutes (24.6 per game), points (10.3) and boards (6.4).
The 28 year old is originally from Brazil, and was a 1st round pick by San Antonio in 2007. As of now it's unclear if Splitter is simply a role player thriving in the Spurs system, or someone who could really break out given an increase in touches and playing time. He's not an elite shot blocker (0.8 per game) but is considered a really strong defender, and his on/off splits this season are staggering. Take a look.
With Splitter on the court - (1,996 minutes) San Antonio scored 108.7 points per 100 possessions, and gave up just 98.5 PP100, a +10.2 rating.
With Splitter on the bench - (1,980 minutes) the Spurs scored 107.7 points per 100 possessions, but gave up 104.4 PP100, a +3.3 rating, with nearly the entire difference coming on the defensive end.
On/off splits aren't the be all, end all, but Splitter's defense meets the eye test as well as he has done a good job in the post-season against Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bogut, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Chris Bosh.
What's his free agent status?
Much like Peković, Splitter is a restricted free agent, meaning the Spurs can match any deal he receives on the open market. San Antonio has plenty of money to re-sign him (the Spurs amazingly enter the off-season with only $41.8 million on the books for next season), so the question becomes - do they try and upgrade the position? The Spurs may decide to make a major run at another free agent big man such as Al Jefferson, J.J. Hickson or Peković if they think it improves their chance at a title, freeing up Splitter to go elsewhere. As of now I would guess the Spurs bring back the Brazilian big man, but it's far from a guarantee.
Can the Celtics afford him?
I feel like a broken record, but here goes. Until the Pierce/KG situations are decided, no one knows what the C's salary cap situation will look like, but here's what I wrote when talking about Peković.
As of now, the team cannot make any moves this off-season beyond the mid-level exception and minimum salary guys, but that could change. If KG retires, and Pierce is amnestied, Boston would create approximately $12-13 million in cap space for next season. The team could also decline Pierce's option and shop Brandon Bass, Jason Terry and Courtney Lee around to teams currently under the cap, hoping that a talent strapped club sees value in their skill-sets (unlikely, but possible).
It's tough to put an exact number on what Peković will make this summer, but looking at big time restricted free agents that have signed offer sheets, he will likely get a 4 year deal at anywhere from $10-13 million per season. So the Celtics have an outside shot, but it will take multiple moves for them to create the required space.
Splitter's price tag is likely to be a little lower than Pek's, but he will still get a healthy offer on the open market. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get $10 million a year over 3-4 years due to his growth this season, size, and defensive prowess.
How would he fit the C's roster?
If the Celtics are able to land Splitter, that means KG is gone, and a gaping hole at the center of the C's defense would appear. Enter Splitter, the best defensive big man on the market and someone who has spent the last three season studying at the prestigious "Tim Duncan school for centers that play defense and want to do other stuff good too". Not that Splitter is Garnett (not even close), but the man can clearly anchor a defense, and that is a pretty good thing have.
Don't sleep on his offensive game either, his 10 point and 6 rebound totals would absolutely grow if he was given true starter minutes. He has a soft touch at the rim and improved at the free throw line drastically this past season (73%). Of course, one red flag has been Splitter's performance in the playoffs. While he has done a good job guarding opposing bigs, he has disappeared on offense, scoring only 6.7 points and grabbing 3.5 rebounds per game. The scoring can be explained in part by a lower usage rate, but 3.5 boards per night for a 7 footer is flat out unacceptable. Also, this happened.
Bottomline: If Splitter's playoff performance lowers his price tag enough, and the Spurs decide to go in another direction, Boston should at least kick the tires. 7 footers who defend the rim and can put up double figure points and rebound the ball at a decent rate do not grow on trees. Splitter also should improve as he continues to adapt to the NBA, something he's been able to do in each of his three seasons. Plus Splitter could join forces with Fab Melo to form the greatest Brazilian frontline combo in NBA history.
However, if Splitter's price tag hits the $10 million mark, it may be better to look elsewhere, or pocket the money until next off-season. While Splitter certainly should improve, he does turn 29 next season, so it's not like Boston would be getting someone in their early 20's to build around. Splitter seems better suited to re-sign in San Antonio, or go to another team on the verge of contention where he can simply focus on defense and rebounding and not be counted on as a true centerpiece.
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For a complete list of the Green Target series, click here
Let us know in the comment section what you think of the Big Brazilian joining the C's Michael Dyer 6/14/2013 09:13:00 AM Tweet